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Conservative Group Urges BLM to Protect Taxpayers on Oil Leases

With the market flooded with oil and storage running out, critics are protesting the Trump administration's ongoing efforts to lease large tracts of public lands at bargain-basement prices. (John Hill/Wikimedia Commons)
With the market flooded with oil and storage running out, critics are protesting the Trump administration's ongoing efforts to lease large tracts of public lands at bargain-basement prices. (John Hill/Wikimedia Commons)
May 4, 2020

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Right-leaning conservation groups are calling on the Trump administration to suspend oil and gas leasing on public lands through the end of 2020.

David Jenkins, president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, says with demand for oil, and oil prices, at record lows during the coronavirus pandemic, the Bureau of Land Management should stop incentivizing production by making it cheaper through rock- bottom leasing prices and suspended royalty payments.

"By doing that, you are robbing taxpayers," he states. "You're basically saying 'we're going to give this oil away for a cheaper price, when the world doesn't need the oil, and not have it around to sell at a better rate for taxpayers.'"

Jenkins says most lease sales, including those auctioned off in Wyoming last month, are going for either the minimum bid amount, $2 per acre, or the lower, non-competitive rate around a $1.50 an acre.

The Trump administration has long argued that lowering barriers to drilling on public lands is necessary to achieve its policy of energy dominance.

Jenkins contends that the U.S. already has achieved that dominance, which he notes also has contributed to a flooded global market now struggling to find storage.

Jenkins says the BLM is acting as if extraction is the only valuable use of public lands.

"And the fact is, public lands have a lot of values: hunting, fishing, other types of recreation, backpacking," he points out. "And we need those lands available for those other uses as well."

Jenkins says the BLM is proposing additional lease sales this year for nearly a quarter of a million acres of public lands in eastern states, Colorado, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming.

According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, oil and gas companies were sitting on nearly 10,000 unused permits to drill at the end of 2019.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY